Africa’s Bat-eared Foxes

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The Bat-eared Fox is a small canid; both diurnal and nocturnal, and an avid hunter … of termites! Yup, they really are designed (adapted) to find, follow, and eat Harvester Termites (often called Harvester Ants). The ears are splayed out horizontally and, with the head down, act like oversized hearing aids when listening for the termites in the night. They might also eat beetles, other bugs, and occasional fruit; but termites are the creatures that have driven the evolution of these diminutive creatures.

Throughout much of Africa water is a seasonal commodity. Water holes, rivers, and a few lakes provide permanent water, but it is rainfall and seasonal patches that provide liquid through much of the year. This Bat-eared Fox has its own little puddle adjacent to a water hole. This fellow had a few doves and sparrow-larks, and a single warthog at the water hole with him. They all ignored each other. When there are puddles there are usually puddles everywhere so animals don’t congregate as much as they do towards the end of the dry season. As you can see the water is rich in local minerals; this is not spring water!
There are always droppings from antelope and gazelles on the African plains and bushland. This Bat-eared Fox heads back toward its den past the droppings of Impala. The photo is from mid-day and thus quite light, but the grasses in the top right were certainly not lush and green. During the dry season and at the beginning of the rainy season the plains and savannas are very dry and brown. Often the grasses disappear totally leaving only a crown of growth just under ground level. Much of the great Serengeti grassland fluctuates between dry and dusty and wet and slick.
Able to feed throughout the 24-hour day, the Bat-eared Foxes spend much of their day in, or near, a shallow burrow that they have created or found. The adult pair will have up to six young and this will make up the group. The youngsters will wander off after reaching adulthood but at any moment a group of foxes that you might see consists of a mated pair and the young of the year. They are sort of cute in the sun aren’t they? This is likely to be two adults out of the burrow and a “teenager” looking at the camera.
They have the facial features of a creature sitting on a stool in the Stars Wars bar scene. I am sure that real animals provided good leads for the developers of all sorts of fantastical movie creatures. Certainly the Bat-eared Fox has a charming mix of innocence and weirdness. And, perhaps a bit of a sinister look.

The Harvester Termites are an ancient form of termite. They do not build mounds but do excavate a large convoluted series of tunnels and chambers under the ground in which they live and breed. They gather their vegetation from the surface and bring it back to the colony site. The termites are both diurnal and nocturnal.

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